Unified World Tour: What you should know about the new six-stop Freeride World Tour

Comments by Tess Weaver/

The North American-based Freeskiing World Tour, The North Face Masters of Snowboarding and the European-based Freeride World Tour have officially joined forces to create a unified global championship series called the Swatch Freeride World Tour (FWT) by The North Face.

“It’s exciting to have this collective effort,” says Adam Comey, president of North American-based Mountain Sports International (MSI), which runs the Freeskiing World Tour. “We now have a European partner who has the same goals. It’s an unknown for us as to what we can accomplish, what we can do on a global level to bring big-mountain freeriding to a bigger audience. There’s a ton of potential.”

Tour locations include Revelstoke, BC; Courmayeur, Italy; Chamonix, France; Kirkwood, California; Fieberbrunn, Austria; and the World Tour finals in Verbier, Switzerland. Athletes who qualified from each of the 2012 tours, along with five wild cards, are invited to each of the six events in 2013. Each competition includes freeskiing and snowboarding, and women will compete at all but the Courmayeur event.

Freeskiing World Tour Championships @ Kirkwood, 2012. Photo by Henrik Lampert.

The 2013 Freeride World Qualifying Tour (FWQ) consists of more than 40 events with different point values from 1- to 4-star in which competitors will compete for one of the coveted 14 spots on the 2014 FWT. Four men and three women will qualify from each region: the Americas (North and South America) and Europe/Oceania (Europe, Asia and Oceania). The rider’s best three results from the season will create their FWQ ranking. A worldwide seeding list will be issued each week to help FWQ organizers select athletes for the FWT. It will rank riders among qualified FWT riders, previous year FWT riders not qualified for the current FWT season and FWQ riders with the best three results from the previous 52 weeks. The qualifier calendar was announced in November.

With Europe hosting 10 four-star events and North America hosting six or seven, European competitors will have more opportunities to gain points, but their region will still only qualify four men and three women to the 2014 FWT. Verbier will hold this season’s world championships, but MSI says the event will bounce back and forth between Europe and the Americas. Same goes for the FWT stops. In 2014, each region will host three events.

A pro freeriders’ board, consisting of seven prominent competition skiers and snowboarders, has been created to ensure athletes have a voice in the organization regarding the season calendar, competition format, judging rules, qualifications and rankings.

Athletes and organizers met in Squaw Valley in September to formulate a global freeride system, which they say incorporates the best aspects from IFSA, the Freeride World Tour and The North Face Masters.

“It’s a formula of judging that’s not overly lengthy or overly complicated,” says MSI’s Bryan Barlow. “Both tours used ‘categories,’ and Europe used ‘overall impression.’ Now, it’s going to be ‘overall impression based on categories.’ Competitors will be able to look at their score cards and be able to clearly see where they did well or not. The new judging criteria will be officially announced later this month.

“It’s going to take some time for people to understand the structure, but it will eventually be clear that this system makes sense for the sport’s growth and everyone involved,” says Barlow. “This system is going to help empower other organizers and resorts to hold their own Freeride World Qualifiers around the Americas. Any event can be a part of our system if it falls into the guidelines. It’s going to support the demand and keep the sport growing.”

If you can’t make it out to the event, tune in. “Surf has a big audience that tunes in on a live basis,” says Comey. “We’re going to deliver the content in a compelling and complete way. It’s going to be a constant story line. From a desk in a city far from the mountains, you can still be part of it.”

Visit freerideworldtour.com for more info. 

SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE

1. Revelstoke, BC • January 7 – 12

2. Courmayeur-Mont-Blanc, Italy • January 19 – 25

3. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France • January 26 – February 1

4. Kirkwood, CA • February 27 – March 3

5. Fieberbrunn Pillerseetal, Austria • March 9 – 15

6. Verbier, Switzerland • March 23 – 31

*This article appeared in the V15 December issue of FREESKIER and is part of our 2012/13 Competition PreviewSubscribe to the magazine, or get it on the iTunes Newsstand.